Leafs Thoughts

Hasn’t been a Leafs article in a while, so I figured give us leaf-heads something to talk about to take out minds off of the sever lack of playoffs in the land (I only say that cause I can’t get Marlies games).
Though much has been made of the Leafs need for a true number 1 center (whatever that entails) the fact is that the Leafs seem to be doing fine offensively. Even with Bozak on the top line and Kulemin falling off the face of the earth (scoring-wise at least) Toronto managed 2.77 goals for per game, ranking them 10th overall in that category (ahead of all remaining playoff teams). The more startling stat is the goals against/game, which sat at 3.16. The only team with a worse record was Tampa Bay, who brilliantly braved the season with one of the original six goalies in net. Though any leafs fan knows that the leafs from October to January seemed to be a completely different team than the Leafs from February on, the fact remains that they had a hard time keeping goals out of the net.

There were some troubles on defense, of course. Liles falling to a lengthy injury and the inconsistent play of Luke Schenn and, at times, Dion Phaneuf, coupled with a lackluster performance from the bottom pairings didn’t help the situation. Jake Gardiner was a pleasant surprise, as the youngster emerged as a sold d-man with a flair for offense. Franson also had a decent season offensively, but overall the D-corps looked young and loose for major swaths of the season.

The defense, however, can only be handed so much of the blame. The season began with great optimism as de facto starter James Reimer was coming off an impressive run to close the 2010-2011 season, his first with the club. However, after a knock to the head by a certain overpaid Montreal forward took him out for an extended period it was up to Jonas Gustavsson to take up the reigns. Well, we all know how that story went. Though Gus did show signs of solid play for short stretches, the Leafs won in spite of him on most night that they did. In the end Gus finished the season with a 2.92 GAA and .902 save percentage, slightly bettering Reimer’s 3.10 and .900. Neither of these goalies were able to get it done and the Leafs eventually went into a tail spin that landed them a nice 5th overall pick. Though Reimer did play great before going down (going 4-0-1 to start the season, with a save percentage of .911 and a GAA of 2.6) he was never able to recover after suffering what the organization absolutely refused to call a concussion.

Clearly the leafs need to solidify the presence between the pipes. It seems likely that Gus, having never been able to secure the number 1 position for long in Toronto, will likely move on and sign somewhere else. Reimer showed his youth and though plagued by headaches and neck pain, could still benefit from a lighter work load while he matures. There is hope that he is the goalie of the future, but Burke would be foolish to bet the season on a 24 year old with only 71 pro games under his belt. The leafs do have some good young prospects in Jussi Rynas and Ben Scrivens, the latter showing his worth in this year’s AHL playoffs (7-1, .944, 1.61), and the musically inclined Make in da park Owuya, but again, the playoff hungry Leafs need stability in net.

The answers seems to be to either sign a goalie out of free agency or pull the trigger on a trade. Here are the best looking options:

Here are the notable available free agents:

  • Cristobal Huet
  • Antero Niitymaki
  • Chris Mason
  • Thomas Vokoun
  • Alex Auld
  • Matin Biron
  • Josh Harding
  • Evgeni Nabokov

Though to be available through trade are:

  • Miikka Kipursoff
  • Jaroslav Halak
  • Steve Mason
  • Nikolai Khabibulin
  • Roberto Luongo
  • Niklas Backstrum
  • Tim Thomas

Though this list is not exhaustive, it give a good idea of the options available to Burkie. So, time to discuss:

  1. Who do you think they should go for?
  2. Who should be signed or targeted and how much should this sign for or trade for?
  3. What should the term be for a FA signing (keeping in mind Burke’s assessment of Reimer as the future)?
  4. And how do you play whoever they bring in (how many games will Reimer play)?
Thanks for reading
JoelLeafs


22 Responses to Leafs Thoughts

  1. frankinboltonleafs says:

    You can get the Marlies games online on the AHL site. It's actually a hoot to watch because the feed is like watching a game in Sudbury in 1979! It costs 10 bucks which is what they pay for a seat in Oklahoma but you save on the travel. The Marlies are really a stacked team and I can't help but wonder how many stick next season. That includes Scrivens over all the guys you have listed. I'd have been more comfortable with him and Reimer at the beginning of last season than Reimer and Gus. Carlyles coaching style is a benefit as well. 

  2. frankinboltonleafs says:

    At one point they posted a completely blocked screen with "happy 45th Irma and Bert" while the play was going on. LOL!

  3. LeafsFTW17 says:

    Great post Joel. We really needed some leaf action haha.

    1. Best case scenario the leafs get Halak, he is the youngest and arguably the best one out of the choices.

    The best choice could be going for Kippursoff though. He is still one of the best in the league, would improve our defence and would almost ensure a playoff spot.
    But the best part about this is that he is only signed for 2 more seasons. The first season he will get almost all the games, the second season him and Reimer would probably split and whoever plays better will get the games in the playoffs. Once his contract is up Reimer will be ready to take over.

    2. There aren't any great options from free agency so I wouldn't offer any more than 3m to a free agent goalie and ony for a year.

    Through trade it depends on who you're getting obviously. 

    To get Kipursoff it would probably take a top prospect, a pick and a goalie prospect back.

    Maybe Colborne, Scrivens and a 3rd. It's a steep price especially for someone who you'll only have for a couple years but many teams will be going after Kipursoff if he is avail.

    3. One year. Reimer needs some time watching the game from the bench, he will be the starter soon.

    4. Depending on who you get. If it's one of Luongo, Kipursoff, Halak, Backstrom or Thomas they will be getting almost all of the games. If it is anyone else it will be either a split or Reimer for most of them.

  4. Steven_Leafs says:

    I have to disagree about Halak and Backstrom being available. Minnesota gains nothing by trading Backstrom away anf considering how poorly St.Louis did without Halak they cannot move him (even if you assume Halak would not have won them a game, St.Louis still has no reason to move him over Elliot).

    Funny thing is Halak then Backstrom are probably my first choices out of the goalies you listed, lol.

  5. JoelLeafs says:

    I tend to agree. I see them in the same boat as Thomas. I'm surprised that any of these guys are even being mentioned, but obviously they all have a situation in which they are potentially not needed as much. They could be pushed out by their number 2… not that I think any of them are likely to move, but there are rumors… and that what we're here for, right?

  6. reinjosh says:

    I'm tempted to want to see Scrivens make the team next season in a tandem with Reimer. I think it could really push Reimer to play at a higher level than Gus ever did. 

    At the same time I don't want to rush Scrivens. He's been fantastic in his time in the AHL, carrying over his success from the NCAA. He has good size and great instincts and could really be a potential stud in the making. Plus he's been unreal in the playoffs. 
    So do you force him to stay in the minors for one more season, making him dominant the league, while having a backup or veteran guy split time with Reimer? Or do you give him a shot if he earns it in training camp?
  7. JoelLeafs says:

    Well, the only problem I see with that is that Burke has the ultimate say in who plays in net. If he takes the risk and it starts to backfire and he isn't able to acquire a good goalie mid-season to see the Leafs make a post season appearance his job could be on the line. I'd love to see a situation with the two youngsters fighting to starts, but realistically that is probably too risky for Burkie.

    I'm not sure what the owners are thinking, but the media and fans seem to think that another failed season could see the axe fall on Brian.

  8. reinjosh says:

    I agree with Halak. Moving him makes little sense. He played unbelievable this year and even though they have Elliot, his showing in the playoffs likely make them nervous about going with just him. Plus if you have a tandem like that going forward, what do you have to gain by trading them?

    Backstrom I think could be available. It really depends on what the team's future plans are. If they can get a young asset for him, and they feel Hackett/Harding are ready to take over as a tandem, it might make sense to move him for that asset (likely a young dman I think). Fletcher has shown a commitment to moving this team forward into a young contending team. Backstrom could be the next piece to go. He certainly isn't a long term piece in net for them, at least in my mind. However I do probably agree he's more likely to stay. 
    I think my top two choices would be Kipper and Backstrom. They have experience that would likely allow us to become a playoff team and give us some experience there. Plus they don't have onerous contracts (Kipper's expires in two years, Backstrom's after next season) and it would allow us to determine if Reimer/Scrivens are the future for us without tossing them in the fire again and potentially causing us to lose another season to not making the playoffs. 
    Thing is I don't think either will be cheap asset wise .
  9. FlamingHomer says:

    No more Calgary/Toronto trades thank you.

  10. FlamingHomer says:

    I know you are keen on a Kipper trade but when does he move, soon? July 1? Trade deadline?

    I'm thinking they wait until trade deadline when they know what they have to replace him and more importantly, where they are in the standings.

  11. LeafsNation4Ever says:

    Montreal did trade Halak when they had Price. Who knows right? 

  12. reinjosh says:

    I suppose. 

    The only argument I could say against that is that Price was at the time a lot younger than Elliot, and had a pedigree to back up choosing him over Halak. Elliot doesn't really. 
    But your right, you can't really know. They may feel he is the future and he's young enough to take a shot with. Plus with Jake Allen in the minors maybe they feel reasonably comfortable moving him. I don't know. 
  13. nordiques100 says:

    The Blues didn't look very confident or as confident with Elliott as they did with Halak in the playoffs.

    The dynamic duo works for them, but in the playoffs, and Halak's pedigree, he's the guy the Blues will lean on. 
  14. MystifoLeafs says:

    Also Flames really don't need goalie prospects they have Ramo/Irving. If Ramo re ups with KHL then we can talk about Goalie prospects.

  15. nordiques100 says:

    Toronto cannot absolutely go again with two unproven netminders.

    A proven, number 1, veteran goalie needs to be acquired. While each of the final 4 teams have established themselves as shot blocking, defensive machines, they are backed by some incredible goaltending. 
    To go in again and hope Reimer is going to be better, or hope Scrivens can deliver what he's done in the A at the NHL level is too much to ask for this coming season.
    Reimer was just bad all last year. Maybe he didnt fully recover from the concussion, who knows, but he needs a massive improvement. 
    I fully understand, Mike Smith came from nowhere, so it can be done, but I really don't trust the psyche of this team in front of a rookie/inexperienced goalie. 
    To me, they need a proven player, like a Luongo or Kiprusoff to say "hey gents, I got this, score me some goals". They need a guy who even if he has an off night, will easily recover as he has over time, like Luongo has proven, Kiprusoff same. 
    Far too often for me they sagged when Gus or Reims gave up goals at bad times or the softies. I personally think that would ruin Scrivens and I rather not take those chances. 
    Lets not dwell on we cant give up this guy or that, and just get it done.
    Whether BB has the stones, I have no idea. All I have to say is Dan Cloutier. He has never proven to me he'd get a true No. 1. He inherited that in Anaheim. 
  16. mojo19 says:

    Nabakov signed an extension with Islanders. Cross him off.

    If you're gonna include guys who don't play many games like Alex Auld (who doesn't belong in the NHL) you really should've included Johan Hedberg who posts great numbers every year. Hedberg is an awesome goalie, even for his age and he'd be a welcome addition anywhere.
    Anyway's, I think we gotta go trade route, because only Vokoun is an enticing UFA, or maybe Harding.
    The best goalie to potentially available via trade is obviously Kipper but I think it would cost a ton to get him. Next best is Tim Thomas, but given his age, he'd probably be better suited to go to a team with a shot at winning next year or the year after (Chicago, San Jose, possibly Detroit, etc.)
    The next best goalies after those two are Backstrom and Halak, and this is where the Leafs should be looking. However, given Elliott's shit play in the playoffs the Blues might wanna hold onto both their goalies, and his cheap contract, it wouldn't hurt to stick Elliott on the bench for another year.
    In conclusion, I hope the Wild re-sign Harding to an extension and deal us Backstrom. Thank you.
  17. Steven_Leafs says:

    I don't think Backstrom will become available, even with the idea of losing Harding for nothing is not worth keeping him and trading Backstrom IMO (which is probably the only way to re-sign Harding).

    The Leafs best options to me are the following:

    Luongo
    Kiprusoff
    Backstrom

    The other high end goalies out there are not going to be available, St.Louis will not move Halak, Boston has mentioned they do not intend to move Thomas (even if they do I doubt they move him to a division rival), and anyone else out there worth getting are not available at all or are not much of an improvement over Reimer/Gustavsson which is pointless to throw money and term or assets in a trade to get them.

    Now out of the 3 goalies available there are big pros and cons to each trade:

    Luongo:

    Pros:
    -Highly skilled goalie (great winning record in his last 7 seasons)
    -Has serious playoff experience (made it to game 7 SCF)
    -no fear of losing him to free agency anytime soon
    -trade value estimated to be extremely lower than skill level

    Cons:
    -full NMC (should we get him and feel we have a younger, better goalie down the road trading him will be next to impossible)
    -is signed well past his 40th birthday (if he doesn't retire early we could end up having a very high cap hit for a goalie that can't play anymore)

    Personally Luongo's cons are nothing. The NMC will only hurt us if a new goalie beats Luongo for his job which is happening right now in Vancouver and it looks like he will be leaving there without issue, and the long-term contract doesn't bug me since I cannot see Luongo make less than 2M a year as a backup or for a team with little chance of winning a cup, which means we should be able to trade him or he will retire and hit cap will come off our books.

    Luongo is a great goalie who will cost us little to trade for and has a very good cap hit for a player of his skill level. The risks that come with a player with his term and NMC IMO are more than worth it to have a SCF level, Olympic gold medal winning goalie who should give us 4-8 years of stability in goal.

    Kiprusoff:

    Pros:
    -excellent veteran goalie (good winning record in last 7 seasons)
    -Has playoff experience
    -signed for 2 more seasons

    Cons:
    -even with some good records his team has missed the playoffs the last 3 seasons
    -is getting older, his skills could start declining
    -will likely cost a lot in a trade

    Kiprusoff is probably the best option for the Leafs for everyone that thinks Reimer is going to be a legitimate no.1 goalie in a few years as both will be free agents (Reimer will be RFA) in 2 seasons. I don't believe that if Kipper repeats his number from this season that the Leafs will miss the playoffs, in fact if our offense produces on par or better next season then Kipper's numbers can give the Leafs at a shot at the division title.

    There is some risk that he will not be able to produce the same way he has been doing but that is unlikely for the 35 year old as he has shown no signs that his career is over. The biggest issue will be his trade value, if the cost to get his is a top pick or prospect or more then the Leafs will likely pass on him.

    Backstrom:

    Pros:
    -very solid goalie (win/loss record can be much better but GAA/Sv% is still good)
    -Has playoff experience

    Cons:
    -has only 1 year left on contract
    -will cost the Leafs a fortune to acquire

    Backstrom is highly skilled and could give us the same quality goaltending Luongo would without the negatives of a 10 year deal but he has similar, yet opposite risks that Luongo has. With only 1 year left on his deal the price to get him will definitely not be worth it if he fails to re-sign, but if Burke can get Backstrom signed before trading for him then he may be the best option for the Maple Leafs.

    Taking all the pros and cons into consideration I think Kiprusoff would be the Leafs best option. He has the talent to win the cup on the right team, with a great contract and gives the Leafs an easy out if Reimer takes over the no.1 spot with allowing the Leafs to re-sign Kipper to a one year deal if Reimer isn't quite ready.

    The only question now becomes what would the Leafs have to give up for Kiprusoff and what direction the Flames are going by giving up Kipper.  I'm kind of curious what everyone (especially Flames fans) think is a fair deal for Kipper. I want you to post 2 deals: one deal is assuming that the Flames are still fighting for a playoff spot and the other deal is assuming they are completely re-building (they are trading Iginla, etc).

    I hope you all enjoyed the post. Let me know what you think of my evaluations and which goalie you would target.

  18. MystifoLeafs says:

    I think Lou's NMC can be dropped if the team taking it on would like to do so.

  19. Steven_Leafs says:

    did not know that, just confirmed it on CapGeek. Well then Luongo is looking better and better, if we feel Reimer is ready in 2 seasons we can always trade him. Without the clause to hold us back there is virtually no risk to getting him.

    I officially change my preference to Luongo. Anyway I still want to know what people think the Leafs would have to give up for Kipper, and now I'm curious to know what Leaf fans would give up for Luongo knowing that we can flip him if the time comes we need to.

    I'll re-post my questions for you guys just in case any of you didn't feel like clicking the Read the rest of the comment button:

    The only question now becomes what would the Leafs have to give up for Kiprusoff and what direction the Flames are going by giving up Kipper.  I'm kind of curious what everyone (especially Flames fans) think is a fair deal for Kipper. I want you to post 2 deals: one deal is assuming that the Flames are still fighting for a playoff spot and the other deal is assuming they are completely re-building (they are trading Iginla, etc).

    I hope you all enjoyed the post. Let me know what you think of my evaluations and which goalie you would target.

  20. reinjosh says:

    I'd have to think it's sort of high. 2nd round pick and a high end prospect at the very least. 

    As a Flames fan, I'd think they could get a 1st rounder, decent to good prospect and a roster player for him (more likely a player who is a dump but could do better in a new place).
    Maybe Jesse Blacker, 2nd Rounder in 2012, Clark MacArthur? 
    That way they clear a little salary, get some future pieces but also a current top 6ish type player. 
  21. glotz_99 says:

    you can watch the marlies games for free on atdhenet.tv

  22. leafmeister says:

    I say grab Luongo. Then focus the saved assets from acquiring such a valueless goalie on grabbing Staal/Statsny/etc. 

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